Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Daily Headlines: September 2, 2014

* Europe: Mexican soccer star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez left Manchester United to Real Madrid on a season-long loan hours before Colombian striker Radamel Falcao joined the famed Mancunian team via his own season-long loan.

* Peru: Police in Lima displayed a record 7.7 tons of cocaine seized last week that were reportedly destined for Spain and Belgium.

* Uruguay: A senior Uruguayan official claimed that the process of transferring six Guantanamo detainees to the South American country would likely occur after presidential elections next month.

* Cuba: Cuban expats traveling to the island are none too pleased with new government restrictions on items including “hard-to-obtain” consumer goods.

Video Source – Liga BBVA via YouTube

Online Sources – Los Angeles Times; TVNZ; Uruguay; CBS Miami

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Weekender – Once Was Lost, But Now Am Found

“The Weekender” is our new feature where every weekend we hope to highlight a short film, movie or documentary pertaining to the Americas. We’re running this feature today since it’s a holiday weekend here in the U.S.
August 31st was the annual observance of the International Day of the Disappeared, which is an occasion used to commemorate the millions of victims gone missing often as a result of war, violence and human rights abuses.  Sadly, this problem has plagued numerous Latin American countries such as a Colombia plagued by decides of armed conflict and drug-rated violence in Mexico.

One of the most infamous examples of disappearances in Latin America has been the estimated 30,000 individuals missing during the dark “Dirty War” period in Argentina from 1976 to 1983.  While numerous former Argentine military commanders and officers have faced justice in recent years for their roles during the brutal “Dirty War” era, numerous organizations and activists have campaigned to reunite missing individuals with their families.

One of the best known of these groups is the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which for nearly four decades has worked to identify babies born to political dissidents and put up illegally for adoption.  Thus far the “Abuelas” have identified 115 missing individuals including two in August alone.  One of these was Guido Montoya Carlotto, the grandson of Grandmothers founder Estela de Carlotto who was born in June 1978 to parents detained and later executed by state security forces.

The video below the page break is a documentary detailing the seemingly tireless efforts by “Abuelas” activists and others to shed light on the illegal adoptions during the “Dirty War”.  The 2010 film produced by Australian TV network SBS includes revealing interviews with several individuals identified by the Grandmothers and the children of a media magnate who rejected any efforts to see if they may have been adopted illegally. 

Daily Headlines: September 1, 2014

* Nicaragua: “The sadness of feeling yourself trapped in a whole is immense but I never lost hope,” said one of the twenty-two workers recently rescued from a collapsed gold mine in northern Nicaragua.

* Cuba: One of the highest ranking Catholic church figures in Cuba, Apostolic nuncio Bruno Musaro, declared that the island’s people are “victims of a socialist dictatorship that has kept them subjugated for the past fifty-six years.”

* El Salvador: Amid a growing homicide rate, the heads of five of El Salvador’s most dangerous gangs including the Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha agreed to renew a 2012 truce.

* Brazil: The sale of Burger King to Tim Hortons could add at least $1.3 billion to the estimated $24.8 billion fortune of Brazil’s wealthiest person, Jorge Paulo Lemann.

Video Source – euronews via YouTube

Online Sources – ABC News; Miami Herald; The Globe and Mail; Reuters

Friday, August 29, 2014

Daily Headlines: August 29, 2014

* Brazil: Federal police thwarted “the largest deforestation gang in Brazil's Amazon rain forest” responsible for destroying 38,000 acres of land worth an estimated $222 million.

* Mexico: Mexico’s crackdown on undocumented migrants may have reportedly led to a decreased flow of Central Americans trying to reach the U.S. but it could lead to an increase of migrants opting to stay in Mexico.

* Nicaragua: At least twenty-five workers are trapped after heavy rains caused the landslide of a gold mine located in a “remote” part of northern Nicaragua.

* Ecuador: President Rafael Correa rejected claims that plans to create the world's first government-issued digital currency will replace Ecuador’s current currency, which is the U.S. dollar.

Video Source – YouTube user The Daily Conversation

Online Sources – teleSUR English; NBC News; The Guardian; ABC News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Daily Headlines: August 28, 2014

* Nicaragua: Residents along the planned route of Nicaragua’s interoceanic canal are worried that a survey of the area could lead to them losing their homes and receiving unfair compensation.

* Brazil: Several polls released this week indicated that last-minute presidential candidate Marina Silva would upset incumbent Dilma Rousseff in the likely event of a runoff election.

* Argentina: Thousands of workers including state employees, truckers and waiters are expected to participate today in the second general strike to hit Argentina in less than five months.

* Colombia: Is the hospitalization of approximately 200 girls living in a northern Colombian town caused by vaccinations or is it merely a case of mass hysteria?

Video Source – YouTube user Newsy World

Online Sources – The Guardian; Reuters; The Latin Americanist; Bloomberg

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

De Musica Ligera - The Best for Last

“Latintronica” is a musical genre that can succinctly be described as electronica fused with traditional Latin music. Perhaps one of the most known exponents in recent years of “latintronica” is the Tijuana-based group Nortec Collective. For the past fifteen years, the members of Nortec have earned critical praise for their unique mixing of electronic and techno sounds with elements of Mexico’s Tambora and Norteño musical traditions.  Yet as the cliché goes, “All good things must come to an end” and that is the case with Nortec who will disband this year.

Prior to retiring Nortec will release one final album on September 16th, which possibly not coincidentally is Mexico’s Independence Day.  Entitled Motel Baja, the album is the final entry in Nortec duo’s Bostich + Fussible Border Trilogy and includes collaborators like the Tom Tom Club and Wolfgang Flur of Kraftwerk.

"We really enjoyed working with Nortec Collective. Their sound is filled with freshness and vigor," observed Tom Tom Club's Chris Frantz.

The first single from Motel Baja, “Camino Verde” was released earlier this month and you can listen to it in the embedded video at the top of this post.  On Wednesday another single from the album was released.  “Room Service” was described by Fussible (real name: Pepe Mogt) as “one of those romantic songs that you’d hear in a Tijuana hotel room” that blends the “classic norteño sound of Mexican music from old times, but still has the electronic edge characteristic of the Nortec sound.”

“Room Service” can be heard by clicking this link to The Onion’s A.V. Club. 

Motel Baja can be pre-ordered via iTunes.

Daily Headlines: August 27, 2014

* Argentina: Angel Di Maria of Argentina broke the British transfer record when he officially signed for Manchester United on Tuesday as part of a $95 million deal.

* Venezuela: The governments of U.S. and Venezuela usually don’t see eye-to-eye but nearly two out of three Venezuelans view the U.S. favorably according to a Pew Research Center survey.

* Dominican Republic: Ex-Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski could be extradited to the Dominican Republic where he’s accused of child sexual abuse.

* Latin America: A United Nations study found that roughly 200 million residents of Latin America and the Caribbean are “vulnerable” to falling into poverty even though poverty rates in the region decreased between 2000 and 2012.

Video Source – YouTube user ScoutNationHD

Online Sources – BBC Sport; The Latin Americanist; UPI; BBC News; Pew Research Center

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Colombian Cartel Killer Put on Parole (Updated)

One of the worst killers in Colombia’s modern history could be freed from prison as soon as today despite committing hundreds of homicides.

Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez is expected to be paroled today after having spent twenty-three years behind bars for the crimes he committed as the security chief of the Medellin drug cartel.  As a result, the former hitman for the late capo Pablo Escobar will have only served three-fifths of the near four-decade sentence handed down against him.

Update: Velásquez was officially placed on parole by a Colombian judge on Tuesday evening.

Nicknamed “Popeye”, his prison sentence has been whittled down a result of his cooperation with the authorities and good behavior while behind bars at the tough Combita prison. He is expected to be put on parole after meeting a series of conditions including paying an approximately $4600 fine and ensuring that there are no further judicial processes against him.  As a part of his potential parole, he is reportedly prohibited from leaving Colombia and will be placed on probation for almost five years.

Since receiving his prison sentence in 1992, “Popeye” has voluntarily admitted to killing some 300 people, arranging an additional 3000 murders under Escobar’s orders and planning the kidnappings of high-profile politicians and even a former beauty queen. Hundreds of Colombians died as a result of over 150 car bombings   planned by Velásquez and he confessed to participating in the 1989 bombing of Avianca Flight 203 that killed 110 people.  (In contrast to Velásquez’ fate, one of his cohorts is currently in a U.S. maximum security prison serving ten life sentences plus forty-five years for crimes like planting the explosive device in the Avianca bombing.)
Mixed reactions have been shown by those most affected by Velásquez' actions: families of the victims of violence caused by the now-defunct Medellin Cartel.

Daily Headlines: August 26, 2014

* Caribbean: At least five people died in the Caribbean due to storm conditions caused by Hurricane Cristobal while an estimated 10,000 families in Mexico were affected by Hurricane Marie.

* Cuba: Guatemalan authorities will determine the fate of thirty-six Cuban migrants who traveled on a single raft by sea to Honduras’ Swan Islands.

* Puerto Rico: According to the U.S. the Justice Department sixteen former Puerto Rican police officers pled guilty to “commit robbery and extortion, to manipulate court records in exchange for bribes, and to sell illegal narcotics.”

* Mexico: Mexican officials announced that satellite imagery would be use to monitor freight train lines used by undocumented migrants heading north such as "La Bestia".

Video Source – YouTube user ExcélsiorTV Noticias (“Hurricane Marie has weakened but rain continues” to fall in southern Mexico.)

Online Sources – LAHT; NBC News; Miami Herald; CBS News

Monday, August 25, 2014

Daily Headlines: August 25, 2014

* Colombia: Members of the Colombian military met for the first time with FARC representatives in Cuba days after the rebels met with a group of victims of the South American country’s decades-long armed conflict.

* South America: Two strong earthquakes of magnitude 6.4 and 6.9 struck in Chile and Peru, respectively, over the weekend.

* Mexico: Mexican officials claimed that at least 22,322 people have “disappeared” since 2006 as a result of drug-related violence including nearly 9800 since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office almost two years ago.

* Costa Rica: A spokesman with Sweden’s TV4 television network apologized for the use of the Costa Rican national anthem to promote a comedy program.

Video Source – TeleSUR English via YouTube (“Negotiators in the Colombian peace talks said the negotiations entered a "decisive phase" on Friday.”)

Online Sources – USA TODAY; ABC News; The Guardian; Fox News Latino; Al Jazeera

Friday, August 22, 2014

Daily Headlines: August 22, 2014

* Venezuela: Is President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to implement a mandatory fingerprinting system in supermarkets a useful tool to combat food shortages and smuggling or a desperate attempt to reverse his tumbling approval rating?

* Argentina: In the latest chapter of the legal tug-of-war between Argentina and holdout creditors, the U.S. judge overseeing the dispute declared as “illegal” a debt swap plan proposed by President Cristina Fernandez.

* Chile: Police in Santiago clashed with a handful of the tens of thousands of protesters calling on President Michelle Bachelet to accelerate education reforms.

* Bolivia: Bolivian officials claimed that the country’s main state oil firm was Latin America's second most profitable oil company ahead of the likes of PDVSA, Petrobras and YPF.

Video Source – NTDTV via YouTube

Online Sources – BBC News; Bloomberg; Globalpost; Reuters; The State

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Senior Brazilian Party Official Quits Silva Campaign

On her first full day as the official candidate of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), Marina Silva faced a challenge against her campaign.  The opposition however, did not come from her electoral rivals but instead from within the PSB.

“I want to put a distance between myself and Marina Silva,” declared PSB Secretary-General Carlos Siqueira who quit from the Silva campaign on Thursday.

“I will not participate anymore in her campaign.  She does not represent the PSB,” declared Siqueira who was the campaign manager for Eduardo Campos, the candidate Silva replaced after he died in a plane crash last week.

“Silva is far from representing the legacy of Eduardo Campos,” added Siqueira who claimed that she tried to remove him from his post after she was chosen as the PSB’s candidate on Wednesday night.

Siqueira’s replacement, legislator Walter Feldman, tried to deflect away from his predecessor’s harsh criticism and told the press that he will try to keep him on the Silva campaign.  Nevertheless, Siqueira’s comments reflect a distrust among some politicos in the alliance between Campos’ PSB and Silva’s Sustainability Network party.

Silva, the environmentalist and ex-minister who was Campos’ vice presidential pick prior to his untimely death, held a press conference yesterday where she blasted the economic policies of incumbent leader Dilma Rousseff.

Daily Headlines: August 21, 2014

* Latin America: A Gallup study found that Latin America and the Caribbean respondents ranked their region as the least secure in the world.

* Mexico: Exports have been cited as the main reason behind stronger than expected growth in Mexico’s economy over the last quarter.

* Honduras: According to the director of the morgue in San Pedro Sula between five and ten of the forty-two minors killed in Honduras since February were recently deported from the U.S.

* U.S.: “There is no dispute that Shakira's version of the song was based on Bello's version,” wrote a U.S. judge who concluded that a 2010 song interpreted by the Colombian musician was plagiarized from a Dominican songwriter.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube (According to Gallup “Venezuela's index score of 41 (in the latest Law and Order Index) is the worst not only in the region, but also in the world”.)

Online Sources – Billboard; Bloomberg; Los Angeles Times; Gallup

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Daily Headlines: August 20, 2014

* El Salvador: “For me Romero is a man of God,” declared Pope Francis who eased the process for a possible beatification of assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.

* Argentina: President Cristina Fernandez proposed legislation for a debt swap that would prevent a U.S. court ruling forcing Argentina into default.

* Venezuela: Police in Venezuela arrested at least thirteen people accused of smuggling goods across the closed border into Colombia.

* Puerto Rico: A recent Pew Research Center report found that Puerto Rico’s population fell between 2010 and 2013 with most residents leaving the island in order to “search for economic opportunity.”

Video Source – YouTube user interestmedia (“Oscar Romero became Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. He was assassinated on 24 March 1980 while celebrating the Eucharist” during the Salvadoran civil war.)

Online Sources – USA TODAY; El Universal; The Independent; BBC News

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Daily Headlines: August 19, 2014

* Mexico: Environmental officials filed a criminal complaint against a company responsible for spilling ten million gallons of acids from a copper mine into two rivers.

* Uruguay: “I say to all the fans: don’t worry, I won’t do that again,” said Luis Suarez as he pledged not to repeat actions such as his infamous biting of an opponent at this year’s World Cup.

* Argentina: A Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis was “deeply pained” over the deaths of three of the pontiff’s relatives in a car crash in Argentina.

* Colombia: A group of victims of Colombia’s armed conflict met with government representatives and FARC guerrilla envoys, and gave their full support to peace talks being held in Cuba.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube

Online Sources – ABC News; The Guardian; The Latin Americanist; Al Jazeera; GlobalPost

Monday, August 18, 2014

Daily Headlines: August 18, 2014

* U.S.: A recent study concluded that Latino characters were represented in a scant 4.9% of movies released between 2007 and 2013 and “Latinos are the most likely to be sexualized on screen, with both male and female actors more apt to be asked to be partially or fully naked.”

* Brazil: The first poll since the death last Wednesday of presidential candidate Eduardo Campos showed incumbent Dilma Rousseff in a statistical tie in a hypothetical runoff against Campos' probable replacement, environmentalist Marina Silva.

* Ecuador: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced today that he plans to “soon” leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has resided in for the past two years.

* Chile: Ricardo Izurieta, the military general who succeeded the dictatorial rule of the late Augusto Pinochet, died Sunday at age 71.

Video Source – YouTube user MOVIECLIPS  (Scene from the 2011 ALMA Award-winning film "A Better Life").

Online Sources – The A.V. Club; NBC News; The Latin Americanist; The Huffington Post; Miami Herald